Thursday, September 30, 2010

“Hang Time” with Carmel Hills Wines

     Here’s another great winery for you Carmel Valley aficionados—Carmel Hills Winery.  The six acre vineyard is on top of Los Laureles Grade and the tasting room is at 12 Del Fino Place, inside the Lyons Head Gallery in Carmel Valley Village. 

      What a great combination—wine and art.  The tasting room is lovely with art on the walls and a small outside courtyard available for group tastings.
      Both of the winery’s owners—Paul Stokes and Lynn Sakasegawa—were in the tasting room when we were there, a real treat.  Their love for their craft was obvious and very infectious.   Plus, we even got to hold an actual piece of their land, or “terroir”—quite fun.
      We started out the tasting with a 2006 Unfiltered Chardonnay—we loved it.  Light, mellow, great for hot summer days.  MK even called it “slightly chewy,” a designation usually associated with reds.  We bought a bottle at $20 to add to our “wine cellar.”
      We also liked the 2007 Unfiltered Chardonnay and could actually pick out the taste of grapefruit before we read it in the description—palate progress.  When we asked Lynn about how we could develop our palates, she responded, “practice.”  Just think what we have to look forward to!
      The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon was quite yummy, especially when Lynn brought out a piece of bittersweet chocolate for us to have with this wine that has “notes of chocolate” in it.  She also gave us a pairing recipe of short ribs to go with the wine.  A nice touch.
      Finally, we were treated to their 2008 Pinot Noir which won the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Double Gold Award.  That means that every judge, in a blind tasting, gave it a gold.  It was full, luscious, and berry-likeable.
      We loved our tasting experience at Carmel Hills.  Being able to talk with the vintners made it an especially warm and personal experience.   And we loved the quote that Lynn shared with us that she had once heard, “People should live where grapes live.”  And, we do!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Boekenoogen--the Second Glass

     Boekenoogen--try to say that fast three times-- is located in the center of Carmel Valley Village.  The tasting room is spacious, air conditioned and has an outside garden patio where you can enjoy the sun while tasting.  Our hostess for the tasting was Holly, a member of the Boekenoogen family.  She was very knowledgeable and made us feel right at home.  We told her we were wine-descriptor challenged and she assured us that all we needed to do was use our past taste experiences and some imagination to name what we experienced on our palate.     
     We tasted four wines.  First we tried two Chardonnays both of which are 2008 Santa Lucia Highlands Estate; the “Stainless Fermented/Barrel Aged versus the “Barrel Fermented”.  Both were pineappley in flavor.  LC liked the stainless better and MK liked the barrel best.  It’s all a matter of taste!  But we bought neither of those wines nor the Pinot Noir, which we also tasted.  Instead, we chose a really full finish, berrylicious 2008 Santa Lucia Highlands Estate Syrah.
     On a later visit to the tasting room we talked with Candace about the meaning of the name Boekenoogen.  She told us the Dutch family name means “Book Eyes”, referring to ancestors in the 17th century who could read and were therefore the “book eyes” for the community.
      Like many wineries, Boekenoogen has wine clubs, two, in fact.  One, called Club VI, gives you six bottles a year; the other, Club IX, gives you nine bottles.  If you are a wine club member and go for a tasting, the tasting is complementary, a nice feature.  For more information on Boekenoogen Tasting Room at 24 W. Carmel Valley Road, call Holly at 831 595-7741 or visit the website at
     By the way, Boekenoogen is much easier to pronounce after a tasting.  And how apt that Boekenoogen’s motto, which you can find on their T-shirts in the tasting room, is “Hard to say, Easy to Drink.” 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


     We began our wine education, and fun, by visiting the closest wine tasting room to our homes.  It was Bernardus at 5 West Carmel Valley Road.  Since it was a hot day—over 100 degrees—we appreciated their air conditioned room.  There were already six people at the tasting bar and we could tell the servers were helpful and friendly and the repartee, fast and lively.  We found our places at the bar and ordered the $5 tasting which allowed us to try four wines—a Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir, and a flagship wine called Marinus.      We sipped and attempted to match up the descriptions of “fresh grass, gooseberry, grapefruit and white peach” with what our un-educated palates were actually tasting.  We could honestly only come up with more mundane words of “round, complex, drinkable” but were willing learners.  The wine we ultimately liked the best that day and purchased, at $22.00 a bottle, was the 2007 Ingrid Vineyard Chardonnay, an “extra” to our tasting choices.  We loved the fact that the actual grapes for the wine came from the estate vineyard one can see in front of the Bernardus Lodge on Carmel Valley Road and that it was named after the Bernardus owner’s wife.  This was about as local as we could get—just what we wanted.  
     In researching the wine on the Bernardus Winery website,, here’s what we found: “The Ingrid’s 2007 exudes a perfume of ripe fig, apple and pear with notes of crème brûlée and ginger spice. On the palate we find intense flavors that mirror the aromas and a refreshingly crisp acidity lingering on the lush, well-focused finish.”    
     We wish we could say we could taste even a hint of fig or that note of crème brûlée.  At this point, we can’t…but that’s what we’re aiming for.  We do know that we liked it and that’s a great beginning.  We will definitely go back for another tasting soon--the $10 “Mr. Pon’s Reserve Tasting.”
     The tasting room is opened from 11-5 every day.  There are places at the tasting bar for about 15 people so if you have a group of more than four, you might want to call ahead to check on space at (831) 659-1900.